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Britain Rejects U.N. Plan for Palestine; Will Rule by Martial Law After Mandate Ends

November 21, 1947
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Britain today threw a monkey wrench into the workings of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine by announcing its intention to free itself of all obligations of the Mandate at “a very early date” and to rule Palestine from that date on under martial law until the withdrawal of the British forces from the country is completed.

The British statement, read by Sir Alexander Cadogan to the full Ad Hoc committee, emphasized that Britain will insist upon “undivided control” of Palestine so long as she continues to hold the Mandate. Britain will also refuse to transfer authority in Palestine directly to the Provisional Councils of Government, as provided in the partition plan, but would be willing to do so to a U.N. Commission “when the time came,” provided that the partition plan is approved by the General Assembly, Cadogan said

Expressing regret over the fact that the U.N. has so far failed to bring about conciliation between the Jews and the Arabs on the Palestine issue, Cadogan said that this makes it impossible for the British Government to deviate from its policy based on the principle that Britain could not play a major role in implementation of a scheme that was not acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. He added that it would not, however, wish to impede the implementation of a recommendation approved by the Assembly.


Cadogan then warned the Assembly to take full account “of the risk of strife” in Palestine and the need to provide means of filling the gap in the process of enforcement because of the determination of the British Government not to permit its troops to be used as an instrument of the United Nations for enforcement of partition.

Ignoring the date set by the partition sub-committee for the termination of the Mandate, Cadogan said that the British Government will itself determine the date. “There is no reasonable basis for the suggestion that my government must await the approval of the Security Council before exercising their right to lay down a Mandate which has proved to be unworkable and of which they desire to divest themselves as rapidly as possible,” he said.

Cadogan rejected the recommendations of the Partition Sub-Committee that the British Government be responsible during the transition period for discharging the obligations of the Palestine mandate, while the administration of Palestine would be entrusted to the U.N. commission. “I am sure,” he said “that there is no need for me to labor the argument that no better way could be found of creating confusion and disorder in Palestine than to establish an authority which would operate concurrently with the existing Palestine administration.”

With regard to withdrawal of British troops from Palestine, Cadogan emphasized that after the handing over of authority to the U.N. commission, there would still be zones in which British troops would remain until the withdrawal was completed. These troops, he said, might have to take action for the maintenance of order and the prevention of sabotage, and they would not permit activity in the zones of a nature calculated to provoke disorder and so to delay British evacuation. However, they will not be allowed under any circumstances to be used for the attainment of any other purpose.


“We see no reason to await the approval of the Security Council as is suggested” Cadogan continued. The participation of the Security Council in expediting the departure of the British forces from Palestine, he said, might instead cause unnecessary delay. He assured the Ad Hoc Committee that the British will move from Palestine “as quickly as it is practicable” and that they will endeavor to keep the U.N. commission informed beforehand of their intentions regarding the stages of their withdrawal.

Summarizing his statement, Cadogan said that the British Government will “in due course” announce a date upon which the British civil administration in Palestine will be considered at an end. After that date, apart from those British authorities who will be exercising strictly limited functions in certain areas, there will be no regularly constituted authority unless the U.N. can fill the gap.

In order to avoid possible chaos in Palestine during that period, the U.N. will have to find a way to fill this gap effectively, Cadogan indicated. “If that problem is solved there should be no great difficulty in making arrangements consequent upon the subsequent stages of our retirement from the country,” he said.


With regard to the report of the Arab sub-committee, suggesting the establishment of a unitary state in Palestine, Cadogan said that the British Government equally refuses “to play the role” assigned to them in that plan. Should the Assembly adopt the Arab plan, Britain would carry out its withdrawal from Palestine without assuming any responsibility for establishing the new regime, Cadogan said. He drew the attention of the Ad Hoc Committee to the gap which will also have to be filled in this case.

Immediately after Cadogan had completed his statement, the sub-committee on partition assembled in closed session, with Cadogan in attendance, to consider revisions of its report in light of the British position.

Canadian delegate Lester Pearson suggested eliminating the Security Council’s approval of the termination of the Mandate and the date of troop withdrawal, also references dealing with the transfer of administrative authority in Palestine to the Governing Councils.

Semyon Tsarapkin, the Soviet delegate, and Herschel V. Johnson, the U.S. representative, refrained from any comment on the suggested changes, pending consultations with their governments. However, Tearapkin said that Cadogan’s statement does not differ from previous ones by Arthur Creech Jones and, therefore, he did not believe any basic changes were needed in the report.


Tearapkin privately told the Jewish Agency that there was no reason for alarm, but that he must consult his government to get its reaction to the proposed changes concerning the Security Council.

During the discussion in the sub-committee, Cadogan and Harry Martin, revealed that Haifa would be the last point to be evacuated, but that the entire evacuation of Palestine would be completed no later than August 1. They also stated that the U.N. Commission would be permitted to start delimiting boundaries in areas under British military occupation, but that the Commission would be allowed to maintain offices in those areas for preparatory work.


Speaking to the sub-committee, Cadogan supplemented his earlier statement, making the following points in reply to questions:

1. He does not know the exact date for termination of the Mandate, but it will not be terminated in the very immediate future.

2. No area in Palestine will be completely evacuated in the near future, but some areas may be completely cleared before termination of the Mandate.

3. The British Government is prepared to transfer evacuated areas to the U.N. Commission.

4. Unevacuated areas will remain under military law.

The sub-committee will resume meeting tomorrow morning and the Ad Hoc Committee will meet in the afternoon.

Earlier today, the Arab delegates ## launched an attack on the recommendations of the partition sub-committee centered primarily on whether the Assembly had the authority to send an Implementation Commission to Palestine.


The Jewish Telegraphic Agency understands that the matter was discussed yesterday by President Truman and Dr. Chaim Weizmann during the latter’s visit to the White House. The American Zionist Emergency Council, which represents all the groups in the Zionist movement in the United States, today telegraphically instructed its branches throughout the country to address protests to President Truman and to the State Department against the pressure of the American delegation for exclusion of the Aqaba area from the Jewish state.

The stand of the U.S. is particularly puzzling to many delegations in view of the fact that it follows the forthright support which the American Government gave the UNSCOP majority plan. Some of the delegates pointed out today that unless the American delegation changes its attitude, the hard won unity on partition achieved so far may be endangered, especially if the U.S. should decide to raise the Aqaba issue at the Ad Hoc Committee or at the Assembly.

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